Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday Blogs

This year, I decided to blog on Fridays. I already missed a week, but I'm still trying. Quilts are gradually coming out of storage and being sorted. They were shuffled around with exhibition and book projects in the last few years, and now there are bins all over the house. Slowly, I am getting more organized.

I am currently sorting quilts by group and getting more organized
Seeing so many quilts at one time allows me to focus on what stays and what goes. The "sell" pile is growing, but I am gradually working on it.

Several of the "sell" quilts were included in projects such as magazine articles, exhibits and books. After the projects were done, I realized I didn't always need to hold on to the quilts.

I do not have many projects planned for this year, so it's a good time to go through the collection, organize things and sell what I do not need. My activities this year will be mostly behind-the-scenes, but I'm looking forward to Friday blogs.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Collin's First Juried Show

I urged Collin Ruff Fellows to enter the biennial juried show of men who quilt at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum. Two of his quilts were accepted, and I was not the least bit surprised. I was fortunate to photograph both quilts when they were first completed.
"Earth" by Collin Ruff Fellows
"Neptune" by Collin Ruff Fellows

I felt a little bad about not entering, having been in the previous two shows, but I was thrilled for Collin. When he received his acceptance letter, he posted this message on Facebook.

In one of the comments he said,

"Now I have to figure out how to get out there to see them up."

Shortly after receiving the good news, I had dinner with Collin and his husband, Marlin, at one of their favorite local Mexican restaurants, Pepita's. We talked about the show, and what they were planning for the future. Less than two weeks later, a heartbreaking announcement from Marlin appeared on Facebook.

We celebrated Collin and his amazing quilts last night at the opening reception of "Boys Just Wanna Have Fun Too" at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colorado. The museum did a wonderful job with the display, paying tribute with the two quilts hanging together, along with a favorite mug shot and memorial statement. Thank you to Steve Bowley, Quilt Angel, for generously sponsoring this part of the exhibition.

I attended the reception with Marlin and his friend, Nick. The display was beautiful as it was poignant. Just as the world was just beginning to learn about Collin and his brilliant work, his friends and family were saying goodbye. We miss Collin terribly, but will always remember him, and not only for his quilts.

In Memorium
Collin Fellows

Collin Fellows was more than just your average, every-day, quilt-making biker. He was a big, burly guy with lots of ink and piercings. He enjoyed cigars, leather, and motorcycles, and had a soft spot in his heart for pit bulls. He was passionate about social justice, especially in the LGBTQ community. 

Collin was also an unusually talented artist. While studying at the Columbus College of Art and design in the 1980s, Collin found himself drawn to the use of hard lines, bold colors, and the shape-layering art movements of the early to middle 20th century. Over his life, he fed his artistic passion through the medium of many different forms of art including drawing, needlework, glasswork, woodwork, sculpture, and custom motorcycle building. 

Then, in 2014, Collin sat down at a sewing machine for the first time and found himself swept up into the world of quilting. Over the next few years, he completed more than 30, doing both commission work and charity quilts. Drawing on a lifetime of creative experiences, and after hours of design work, Collin's "Planets" series came to life. The "Planets" quilts are postage stamp quilts, so-called because each square in the quilt is an inch square-- about the size of a postage stamp. 

Before his death in November 2017, he had completed four of the nine quilts-- Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune-- and was working on a quilt exploring resistance to Fascist Politics. 

Collin stuck out at quilt shows, due to his alternative appearance. However, even a short conversation made it evident he was intelligent, articulate, and surprisingly soft-spoken for such a big, bearish man. His premature death left the world to continue to enjoy the quilts he left behind and wonder what more he would have done. Collin Ruff Fellows will continue to live on through his art. 

Collin Eric Fellows
(as written by his husband, Marlin Hofer)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Coming soon!

Last week I left a bid for a Hawaiian scrap quilt on eBay and forgot about it. When the auction ended, I received an e-mail that I'd won. What a nice surprise! This one is coming from a family in California, who lived in Hawaii around the time the quilt was made. It is 45" x 54". Here are a few photos.

Looks like it has a lot in common with several of the Hawaiian scrap quilts already in my collection. I can't wait to see it in person!

Friday, February 2, 2018

a nice gift

crib quilt, cottons, unknown maker, USA, c. 1860, 35" x 40"
This week I received a bag full of goodies from a friend who is downsizing. Among the goodies was this lovely little old crib quilt. I think it was probably made around 1860. The fabrics look right for that period.

The condition is far from perfect, a sign that it was well loved and used a lot. That's really the way it should be. Whenever I see a very old crib quilt in flawless condition, I feel a little sad to think of the reasons why it was never used. After much wear, washing and fading, this quilt has a very pleasing color palette. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Show & Tell

"Woodland Chromatics" 1984, by Libby Lehman
When you belong to a quilt guild, one of the highlights of each meeting is Show & Tell. I like to bring antique and vintage quilts to share, but I brought a much more recent quilt to the last guild meeting. It was made in 1984 by Libby Lehman. She called it "Woodland Chromatics" and inscribed it with ink and embroidery.

Libby Lehman
The audience collectively gasped when they heard the name Libby Lehman. I was delighted so many people there knew her name. There were others who never heard of her before. They would learn about Libby for the first time by seeing her magnificent, modern quilt.

A more recent photo of Libby
A few years ago, Libby suffered from a brain aneurysm followed by a stroke. Last year, several of her quilts came up for auction, the proceeds designated to offset her medical expenses. When I saw her "Woodland Chromatics" quilt from 1984, I fell in love. I had to have it.

"Woodland Chromatics" 1984 by Libby Lehman, photo by Matthew Stovall
"Woodland Chromatics" was one of the earliest quilts in the auction that revealed Libby's true potential as a master quiltmaker. It foreshadowed the quilts of the 21st century. Here are some detail photos showing the fresh colors and playful hand quilting.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Sorting Ceremony

This year I am having my own Sorting Ceremony...with quilts!
The sorting ceremony is among the most anticipated annual events in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. This year I am doing my own sorting ceremony with quilts, coverlets and other textiles. Which ones will I keep? Which ones will I sell? Where will each one go?

1830s coverlet on sale at Antique Alley in Portland

Some things are for sale in my booth at Antique Alley in Portland. Others are just coming out of storage. It's nice to have a fresh perspective when I see something I haven't seen for a while.

1970s Cathedral Windows, SOLD!

I love everything in the sell pile, but can't keep it all. Recently I sold a very nice crocheted work and a Cathedral Windows quilt. I'm happy they went to good homes, even though I'll miss them.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Strawberries? or Cardoons?

Quiltmakers love botanical motifs, even if they are not the best botanists. The applique design in this mid-19th century quilt is uncommon, but I have seen it before. The first time was in 2011, when Lynn Miller visited a local quilt study group meeting in Portland with one she found during her summer vacation in Washington.

Lynn Miller's quilt, found in Washington state in 2011

After seeing Lynn's quilt, I learned Barbara Brackman blogged about the motif in 2010 when Terry Clothier Thompson released a reproduction pattern called "Strawberry Patch" based on an antique quilt in Thompson's collection.

Barbara Brackman blogged about this motif in 2010

Brackman's blog included a reference to an image in Hall and Kretsinger's "The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America" Plate XXXIV, page 167. In the book, the quilt is called a "Strawberry Quilt" and the caption includes some provenance.

According to the book, the quilt was made in 1876 as a wedding gift for Mrs. Augusta Wehrman from her mother-in-law. The quilt I purchased was made approximately a quarter century earlier. I wonder if Mrs. Wehrman's mother-in-law saw the motif in an older quilt, replicated it and started calling it a strawberry because that's what it looked like to her. I also wonder if the maker actually intended it to represent a strawberry.
Applique quilt, c. 1850, United States
After asking around, I discovered I wasn't the only person who did not believe this motif represented a strawberry. Another quilt in my collection, dated 1868 and inscribed with the name Hannah J. Swin has strawberries, and they actually look like strawberries.

detail, strawberry applique from an 1868 quilt made by Hannah J. Swin, NJ
When I brought the 1850s applique quilt to the Portland Modern Quilt Guild meeting for show & tell in December, I mentioned how I did not believe the motif was a strawberry. Someone in the audience thought it could be an artichoke. That idea got me thinking...and looking.

I believe it could be a cardoon. What is a cardoon? It is a type of thistle, cousin of the artichoke. Cardoons were commonly found in colonial American gardens, according to a 2009 article published by The Atlantic, "Cardoons: The Farm's Mystery Vegetable" by Anastatia Curley (The Atlantic, July 20, 2009). Click here to read the article.

Costa Vicentina 4
Cardoons in bloom. Photo: Lusitana/Wikimedia Commons
Curley offers one possible reason why the botanical applique motif in my quilt is such a mystery. 

"A little research reveals that while cardoons were a common sight in colonial Americans' vegetable gardens, for reasons no one seems able to explain they've fallen out of favor since then," said Curley. "They're still fairly common in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, but they are harder to find in the U.S."

While searching, I pulled up many photos of artichokes, thistles and cardoons. The mystery applique motifs resembled these plants much more than strawberries. It made sense when I thought more about the quilt. The large scale of the appliqué suggests a plant much larger than a strawberry.

So, do you think the applique motif is a strawberry, a cardoon or something else? Please feel free to comment in the comments section (below).